s singing

Brandon Rodriguez, who plays lead Don Lockwood, dances the iconic number made famous by Gene Kelly, minus rain.

Minutes before the start of dress rehearsal for “Singinig in the Rain,” Brandon Rodriguez had a wardrobe malfunction.

A crisis? Hardly. His clip-on bow tie broke. Katrina Suarez and fellow costume designer Paige Hernandez quickly came up with a replacement. 

“Don’t lose it,” Suarez said, attaching the final piece to Rodriguez’s outfit. He was the male lead, Don Lockwood, the role originally played by Gene Kelly in the 1952 musical directed by Stanley Donen and Kelly.

“We gotta give a lot of credit to these guys,” Rodriguez said of Suarez, Hernandez and the rest of the crew. He donned a black jacket and got into character.

The organized pandemonium of 38 cast members included many such minor emergency instances as they perfected their hair, makeup and wardrobe. But of course, the show, especially that of Sanger High drama director Erica Mardirosian, must go on.

And even the rain machine working a bit too well that night proved no match for the steely determination of the cast. They completed the first unofficial show with minimal delay. Opening night is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the school’s multipurpose room. The show continues at the same time and location March 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23.

Mardirosian said the musical may rank as her most challenging production. Travis Kirk fabricated the network of polyvinyl chloride tubing and water hose that delivers on-stage rain with the assistance of Sanger comedian and comedy producer Ty Martin. 

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Mardirosian said in the spare few minutes she had at the March 11 rehearsal. “It’s been nerve-wracking because we’ve really upped the ante. It’s technically much more difficult than what we’ve done (in the past).”

And Mardirosian, or “Mardi” as she is known to students and those in the drama community, was under special scrutiny that night. Her grandmother, Rose Garabedian, the grand dame of Sanger High productions, “now retired,” she said, arrived for the show. Garabedian created many of the costumes still used by the student actors, and her gaze during the performance that night indicated her critical eye.

Garabedian likely approved, although she didn’t miss a thing.

Perhaps credit for a successful rehearsal should go to sound technician Rebecca Giannandrea, who not only helped make sure the often persnickety wireless lavalier microphones worked without error but epitomized the theatrical slang for good luck. She injured her leg and had to hobble about on crutches, dodging this actor and that crew member in the tight confines of the drama room.

Giannandrea said it was more of an ankle sprain suffered during a fall after leaving her boyfriend’s house. “People today have been saying, ‘Did they tell you to break a leg?’” she said.

Regardless, good luck appeared to outweigh any from the opposite spectrum. Rodriguez and the rest of the cast performed like they had a full audience. And they did to a fractional degree. Mardirosian’s little brother Andrew, fresh from his master’s at Texas A&M, also sat out in the darkness with others of her family.

Rodriguez, who played Mortimer Brewster in last fall’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” opposite Star Aguado, said future audiences should expect a great show. “Absolutely amazing,” he said. “It’s really iconic.”

That last bit referred to the signature number in which Rodriguez dances with an umbrella on stage.

Maddie Berry plays the role of Kathy Selden, which Debbie Reynolds played in the movie. The plot involves the transition of the motion picture industry from silent films to “talkies” and makes repeated references to “The Jazz Singer,” which in 1927 became the first major hit with an audio track. Selden is an aspiring stage actress who inadvertently meets Lockwood before filming of his latest project with Lina Lamont, played by Rhianna Howell.

“We have a really good relationship,” Berry said of the bond formed between herself and Rodriguez, her love interest in the musical. She said the two have known each other three years but got a lot more comfortable with their roles to provide the audience with “an accurate and real display of our characters’ emotion.”

Berry said the musical’s cast does a good job “bringing it to life.”

Illiana Medoza, who plays Dora Baily, said the cast and crew have been especially welcoming, making for an “amazing lifetime experience.”

And Edward Delgado, who plays multiple characters and exudes a young Viggo Montensen vibe, said he wasn’t worried in the slightest despite being in many of the dance numbers. Then he said he’s heading to the Marines after graduation. 

Cool as ice.

Maddie Braley, who plays Zelda Zanders, started the night with something of a thousand-yard stare during hair and makeup. She said she plays a “very loud, in-your-face character” and that Zanders was her first attempt at a New York accent. 

Braley’s character is Lamont’s best friend, and she said the role taught her “that friendships are weird. And at the end of the day, sometimes that’s all you have.”

Lamont is described as vain, cunning and conniving. But it’s her shrill voice and city accent that dooms her in the new era of talking pictures. Zanders, Braley said, shows the power of loyalty and friendship.

Costume designers Suarez and Hernandez gave the production a distinct thumbs up.

“It’s very colorful and fun,” Suarez said.

“Very fun,” Hernandez added. “Everybody’s so energetic on stage, and that’s what’s making it a good show.”

Joshua Robbins as Cosmo Brown brims with that energy with a Dick Van Dyke-worthy physical performance. The role was played by Donald O’Connor in the movie version. Howell as Lamont is an animated show stopper, channeling a Cyndi Lauperish vocal in the role for which Jean Hagen was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award. 

Patrick Gonzalez plays producer R.F. Simpson. Steven Garcia plays Roscoe Dexter. Cameron Ward plays Rod. Gabriela Chapa plays Miss Dinsmore, while Brandon Sandoval plays the male diction teacher and Roberto Zamora the production tenor.

Male ensemble includes Nathaniel Lara, Jacob Galindo, Matthew Nicacio, Phoenix Jernigan and Antonio Lopez. Female ensemble includes Karle Campbell, Anahi Chapa, Julianne Estrada, Evelyn Moua, Allison Moua, Florence Molano, Madi Lopez, Tavrey Martin, Isabella Padilla, Mattie Pennebaker, Ariana Gutierrez, Sarah Robbins, Kiara Clemente, Briana Petrille, Lilian Yang, Stephanie Faz, Kaylee Diffey, Abigail West and Cassie Rodriguez.

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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